‘Mama’ Opens as Box Office Leader to Topple ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

The horror tale “Mama” opened as the top weekend film in U.S. and Canadian theaters, displacing Oscar contender “Zero Dark Thirty” as two films starring Jessica Chastain vied for the top spot.

“Mama,” with $28.1 million in sales for Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, edged Kathryn Bigelow’s look at the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which fell to second with $17.6 million, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comeback film, “The Last Stand” opened in 10th place with $6.3 million,

The weekend sales reflected the growing box-office appeal of Chastain. She received a best-actress Oscar nomination this month for her portrayal in “Zero Dark Thirty” of a relentless CIA officer who uncovers key information that leads to the killing of bin Laden

In “Mama,” two young girls disappear in the woods on the day their mother is murdered. Five years later, they are discovered living in a feral state in a remote cabin.

Their uncle and his girlfriend, played by Chastain, take them in. Soon after the girls arrive, the couple discovers that a malevolent force has followed the girls into the home. Nicolaj Coster-Waldau co-stars as the uncle.

“Zero Dark Thirty,” also nominated for best picture, is benefiting from Oscar buzz and the political debate over the film’s depiction of harsh interrogation techniques by the CIA.

CIA Operatives

Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, has said the movie falsely suggests techniques such as waterboarding provided key information. The California Democrat has called for an investigation into whether the CIA has been honest about the value of such methods.

“Zero Dark Thirty” follows a team of operatives who use a variety of methods, including interrogation, satellite photos and on-the-ground surveillance, to locate bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The movie also depicts bin Laden’s 2011 death during a raid by U.S. Navy Seals.

In addition to Chastain, the film features Joel Edgerton, Kyle Chandler and James Gandolfini.

In “The Last Stand,” Schwarzenegger plays a former Los Angeles Police Department detective who moves into semi-retirement by becoming the sheriff of a small town on the Mexican border.

His quiet life is disrupted when a drug kingpin escapes from FBI custody. The film, distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., also features Forest Whitaker and Luis Guzman.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.